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Suicide survivors share stories of hope

Copies of a Grande Prairie-born book filled with stories of suicide survivors are making their way across Canada. Life After Dark was officially launched in the Swan City last month, and its author and photographer is now bringing it to the communities that embraced the project in the first place.

“That book is Grande Prairie’s legacy,” says Suzanne Sagmeister. “It was their belief in the project in the beginning that enabled it to take on a life of its own and go across Canada. I hope everybody who supported and believed in Life After Dark from the beginning understands that when they look at that book.”

At Mighty Peace Day four years ago, Sagmeister was inspired to visit every province and territory in the country to photograph and collect the stories of people whose lives have been affected by suicide. There are 100 portraits and stories in total, and while readers might not connect with all, she believes they’ll find at least one that will speak to them.

“When we walk through that dark place we have to go through all those messy emotions in order to get to the other side, and when we get to that other side is when we can start helping other people and we just perpetuate a cycle of healing.”

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Spending four years listening to suicide survivors has taken its toll on Sagmeister, who was first affected by suicide as an infant. She says she faced several obstacles along the way, including the death of her son’s father, making him the 25th survivor photographed for the book.

“I had to dig myself out of a dark place, but on the other side of that, the resilience and the strength that I have gained, I just can’t even put a price tag on that. The understanding, the healing that I myself have gone through… this has been the greatest gift I’ve ever had in my life.”

Life After Dark is available for pickup at locations in Grande Prairie like The L Spa and Wellness Centre, Canadian Tire, and Suncapsule Tan’n Fitness Centre by purchasing online. Sagmeister hopes it helps anyone feeling alone.

“If you’re struggling or if you’re having thoughts of suicide, you do need to reach out because you do matter and there is people out there who do care, even though sometimes it feels like there isn’t anybody,” she maintains. “You need to look at this book and understand the people that came together across a nation to make that book happen.”

Sagmeister currently lives on Vancouver Island, B.C. but calls Grande Prairie her hometown.

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